You Jews for Jesus are too confrontational!”
We hear it often. One person went so far as to accuse us of measuring success by the level of hostility we engender through “in your face” tactics. Even some friends who admire our boldness and creativity wonder at times if the confrontation that appears to be a consistent part of our ministry is really necessary. Perhaps these friends wonder only because they’ve heard plausible sounding arguments against our methods. Or perhaps the arguments didn’t seem exactly plausible, yet it was difficult to know how to answer them.
In any case, I’d like to present our perspective on the issue of being “too confrontational.”
First, I think it would be helpful to clarify what we Jews for Jesus actually do. Second, I want to challenge the very premise of being too confrontational.
When you think about Jews for Jesus missionaries, what comes to mind? Perhaps you picture a young person wearing a Jews for Jesus T-shirt, handing out broadsides (gospel tracts) on a busy street corner. Was I right? Good, because that is an important picture to have in mind—but it is not the whole picture.
We have committed ourselves to handing out gospel tracts because, 1) it effectively raises the issue of ¬2002 Jews f r Jesus Jewish people believing in Jesus as the Messiah so that people can think or rethink their presuppositions; 2) it gives us the opportunity to hand-sow millions of gospel seeds each year, and some of those seeds will bear fruit later; 3) it makes us accessible and available for divine appointments with people in whose hearts God has been working, people whom we might not have otherwise met.
But while we are committed to distributing broadsides, it is only a portion of how our missionaries spend their time. It is the most public and visible portion so, understandably, this is how many people picture us…on a never-ending sortie (tract-passing expedition). The bread and butter of our missionary work is meeting one-on-one with Jewish people, and doing the necessary work to arrange those meetings. We are in fact very relational in our approach to the many Jewish people who have expressed interest in hearing from us.
Each of our field missionaries develops a “case load,” a constituency of people to whom he or she can minister. Last year our missionaries had 13,113 individual meetings with Jewish people for sharing the gospel and personal ministry. These people are entrusted to us by God. We care for them. We share with them the good news of the gospel and by God’s grace, we lead some of these people to faith in Jesus Christ and disciple them. That is a personal, not a public, kind of ministry, but those who know us well understand that it is foundational to our work. Perhaps if you find yourself in conversation with someone who thinks Jews for Jesus is too confrontational, particularly if he or she is a Christian, you might be able to add to their understanding of what we do.
Now let me ask a question. What is “too confrontational”? Is a little confrontation okay, but too much not okay? It seems to me that confrontation doesn’t really lend itself to degrees. It’s kind of like being pregnant. Either a person is confronted (brought face to face with something or someone) or they are not. Webster’s defines confront as follows: 1. To face, stand or meet face to face; 2. To face or oppose boldly, defiantly or antagonistically; 3. To bring face to face [as with the facts]; 4. To set side by side to compare.
Which of these definitions of confront causes people to coin the phrase “too confrontational”? It has to be number two. When we face people, do we oppose them? No, we offer them a pamphlet, which they are free to receive or reject. But our beliefs are in opposition to their beliefs, as are any Christian’s beliefs to the beliefs of those who do not yet know the Lord. When we face people with the gospel, are we defiant? Only in the sense that we do not bow under the pressure to keep our beliefs to ourselves. But finally, we come to the crux of the “too confrontational” issue. Is it antagonistic for us to stand in our Jews for Jesus T-shirts handing out tracts when we know that many people are upset by our claim that belief in Jesus has not robbed us of our Jewish identity?
Who decides what it means to be antagonized? Who determines whether or not a person has been antagonized? Is it possible that the only way to avoid antagonizing some people is to make sure they do not see or hear what upsets them…even when we are commanded to show and tell what many people do not want to see and hear? How can we show and tell the gospel to those who are searching without others seeing and hearing?
We don’t necessarily seek to be confrontational in our approach. We seek to be forthright in our proclamation and clear in our presentation so that people can easily know who we are before deciding whether or not to take our literature or converse with us. We respect the wishes of those who do not wish to discuss the gospel and we seek to be personable, thought-provoking and gentle in answering those who challenge us (1 Peter 3:15). When confrontation occurs, it is not so much dictated by our approach as it is by the response of those who choose to oppose us and our witness.
Nevertheless, I think the idea that we can and should avoid confrontation is a by-product of the times in which we live and a concession to society’s demands for “tolerance and political correctness.” The prophets of old had no choice but to confront the people of Israel and their leaders. Remember Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel? Elijah brought the children of Israel face to face with their choice, “If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21).
Jesus was just as intentional in confronting the Jewish people and the leadership of his day. Consider His statements: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you” (John 6:53). “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). Would we say that Jesus is being too confrontational? Probably not, but then Jesus had the divine ability to balance mercy and judgment. He was the perfect example of loving confrontation.
Have we in Jews for Jesus achieved the perfect balance of loving confrontation exemplified by our Messiah? Most assuredly not, but we try to be loving and good-natured—and we can say with the Apostle Paul, it is the love of Christ that compels us (2 Corinthians 5:14).
It is easy to think that if people get angry at us as a result of our personal witness, we must have done something wrong. But let’s remember, people got very angry at Jesus too, so angry they nailed Him to a cross. We all need courage to stand for the Lord. I hope we can encourage you to stand strong for the Lord in your own witness. As we in Jews for Jesus continue to meet one-on-one with Jewish people as well as stand out on busy street corners proclaiming the good news, would you please pray? Pray that God will grant us the grace to continue to lovingly confront our people—indeed all people—with the good news of our Messiah Jesus.